Yesterday was the birthday of the great American mezzo Shirley Verrett, who passed away last November. She was born in New Orleans and studied at the Juilliard School, made her operatic debut in Britten's Rape of Lucrezia in 1958 and reached the Met as Carmen in 1968. Possessing a warm, flexible mezzo with an excellent upper extension, Verrett sang both stand mezzo roles (Dalila, Azucena, Amneris, Eboli etc.) and selected soprano roles (Desdemona, Madame Lidoine, Tosca, Lady Macbeth). A beautiful woman, Verrett combined a beautiful voice with an alluring stage presence. After she retired in the early 1990s, she became a noted voice teacher at the University of Michigan, and was active as an adjudicator in vocal competitions. Here is a lengthy excerpt from a documentary made in the mid 1980s. Verrett speaks about her family background and her career. The video also has a clip of her singing Dalila's "Mon coeur" opposite the Samson of Jon Vickers, and extended selections of the mezzo singing rhythm and blues. Anyone interested in Verrett should take a look at her autobiography, I Never Walked Alone.
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